How did you end up in Phenix City and Columbus?
I was born and raised in Abbeville, Ala. I met and would eventually marry my husband, Douglas, who was then a member of the Alabama National Guard in Abbeville. I visited the area, loved it and decided that we should move here, and the Tri-City community has been our home since October 1996.
You have worked at the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau for more than 10 years. How has Columbus changed in those 10 years?
Columbus has "matured" as a destination. When we asked what that meant, the researchers said that our visitors experience had gotten to the point and the efforts of the Convention & Visitors Bureau had grown in a way that we were meeting the expectation of the visitor. This is very good. I think it means that our attractions, restaurants, hotels ... all of our partners are focused in the right way. I mean when you consider what the city has to offer -- two national museums, one of the largest art and history museums in the Southeast, a Challenger learning center (again unique to Columbus and the region), the RiverWalk, biking and running trails, whitewater, and just for starters -- you just can't do it all in a day.
When you look at Columbus as a regional destination, when we include the 19-counties within the Presidential Pathways Travel Region, there are over 46 attractions that make West Central Georgia a draw or a point of interest for just about anyone. I think one of the things that makes Columbus special is that even though the city has changed, meaning there's a lot to see and do, that the people haven't changed. And that's important. We're a friendly town. So we've grown in good way, but we've kept the best part of what makes Columbus home and special.
What kind of buzz has the whitewater course created in the convention and visitors business?
Visitor Center inquiries have changed. We still get a lot of calls from families coming for Fort Benning graduations, looking for places to stay. We still get calls about what there is to do; and we get calls from people asking for phone numbers and addresses. And that's just part of what we do. But when whitewater opened there was a dramatic change in the kinds of calls we received.
It was about whitewater. And because of the partnership the CVB has with Uptown Inc. and Whitewater Express, it's only natural that we've become a source of information about hours, times of the trips, where Whitewater Express is located, how to book a trip.
Of course, we're an information center, so we carry Whitewater Express' brochures in the Visitors Center as well. And one of the exciting things about this is telling people what else there is to see and do while in Columbus. That's where our visitors guide plays an important role. It's a complete visitor resource about Columbus. And because it's online, whether it's a walk-in or an email or telephone call, we can usually help with this sort of thing. The bottom line: whitewater is helping to promote the area as a great place to visit.
With your daughter playing basketball at Central, are you watching a lot of Lady Red Devil games this season?
Yes, sir. I am present at all games and most of the practices, and it has been that way since she started playing in the seventh grade at South Girard School. My daughter is a proud team member of both the junior varsity and varsity Lady Red Devils. The varsity Lady Red Devils are 5-1. I am very involved and a member of the Red Devils' Booster Club in which we support all of Central's basketball teams.
What is the best kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?
People who move here do not realize how fortunate they are to live so close to such quality higher education institutions. Within driving distance is Columbus State University, Columbus Tech, Troy University, Auburn University and Tuskegee, not to mention CVCC, Southern Union and so on. To me, that is a best kept secret that needs to be told.